restricted access 14. Henry Adam’s Among Unbroken Hearts (2000): Mankind’s desperate quest for freedom
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224 14. Henry Adam’s Among Unbroken Hearts (2000): Mankind’s desperate quest for freedom DANIÈLE BERTON-CHARRIÈRE In Henry Adam’s Among Unbroken Hearts (2000)1 four characters, covering a wide age-range, meet in a village in a wild, deserted rural area of northern Scotland, represented as a dead-end open space which paradoxically offers little opportunity to free oneself from alienating factors. The place appears lonely, cut off from the rest of the world (or at least from any urban centre). Three men – Ray, Neil and Chaimig – and a young girl – Amanda – look lost in the midst of this forsaken locus. Ray has just inherited his grandmother ’s home after her death. He is back in the village in which he was brought up, having travelled there in the company of Neil, his friend. He thinks it will take only a matter of a couple of days to sort things out. In fact, their visit turns into a much longer stay, one forever as far as Ray is concerned. He meets the only inhabitants apparently still there, whom he has not seen for ages. These are Chaimig, now very old, blind and somewhat senile, needing taken care of, who used to look after Ray when he was a child, and his granddaughter, Amanda, who would like to leave to study in Glasgow. Stranded and confined in this lonely place, the four of them recreate, in effect, a tense and stifling dramatic and symbolic huis-clos. They feel entrapped in an oppressive deadlock. The locked door is that of their alienated minds: the idea of the absence of literal escape keeps haunting them. These individuals find no figurative escape from one another either. In this play, the topos turns into a literary and dramatic exploration of mental alienation as well as a desperate quest for liberation. Introspection somehow combines with Sartre’s echoed philosophical ideas of objectification and competitive subjectivity. Each character looks at another (the Other) and at him/herself (his/her own Self turned into an/Other) made object 225 henry adam’s among unbroken hearts under scrutiny in the process, themselves being the subject doing the action the others (sometimes including themselves) are enduring. Because there is no break from others, each person is faced with the incapacitating horror of being turned into an object under constant surveillance. Unfortunately, within this frame, there is no possible escape from the hell of objectification, and each character is also competing to be subject, to be the observer, and not the person under observation. Introspection makes things both more complex and more painful. All the characters feel ensnared, and, for the very first time, have to face their actual present selves, what they have become owing to age, addiction, guilt, love and wrong choices of all sorts. The concepts of in/determinism and origination intrude upon their reflection, puzzling and disturbing their psychological balance. Imprisonment, escapism and related topics are examined through this quartet of very different personae. Yet, despite the pessimistic turn of the play, hope somehow helps the characters fight against the deep disappointment of their past dreams for the future. In his work in general, Adam explores the deep longings and failings of humankind, revisiting a certain number of ‘myths’ – whether Scottish or not – through a transtextual network. His playtext here is rich and its subtext philosophical and metadiscursive. He uses a mixture of Scots, Scottish dialect, sociolect, geolect and even the junkies’ idiolect or jargon – very little Standard English – to verbalise, articulate and reverberate the characters’ desires to liberate themselves from bonds, from alienating others, from addictions, and, even worse, from their painful selves. Quest for freedom Ray has stayed away from the Scottish hamlet of his childhood, and from his roots (at least, those he knows), for a very long time. His grandmother’s death and her choice of him as heir have made him go back to where he should belong, although he has felt separate for years. No one has forced him to do this; no violence has been used to make him change his mind and to allow links and feelings to resurface. As a free individual in a free society, he has chosen to accept the situation and be the new owner of a 226 ‘farmhouse in the far north of Scotland’ as the first stage directions indicate (p. 7). His decision-making corresponds to one of the many definitions of liberty, supposedly no subject of dispute...